2018 Fruit Production

Wow… it’s almost February already! As we have progressed past the harshest part of winter (hopefully), it’s time to think more about fruit production and items necessary to promote good plant growth. Grapes, brambles, blueberries, apples, peaches, pears, etc., all need pruned in the next few weeks if you haven’t already finished them.  I’ve added some pictures below to help determine what the finished product might look like. Good pruning for sunlight, air penetration and spray coverage is a key to good fruit production.


Grapes before pruning                             Grapes after pruning



Blackberries before pruning                    Blackberries after pruning



Blueberry before pruning                             Blueberry after pruning



Apple or Pear pruning cuts              Peach or Cherry pruning for open center


Tree fruit producers should also be thinking about dormant oil sprays and/or copper applications if fire blight was severe last year in your trees. Oils…only apply when temperatures are above 40°F, never during freezing weather (read the label). Timely applications of any insecticide or fungicide is necessary if you want to get the full benefit of using them, so plan now and have the correct products ready to use as needed.  Also remember, pesticide resistance management is something we all need to guard against. Read the labels of any pesticides being used and rotate to other products as listed on the labels.

Black Rot in Grapes– I have many homeowners who contact me each year, as fall approaches, saying their grapes are turning black and shriveling up just about the time they start to ripen. This is a problem that must be controlled in the spring as the new vines are growing. The period from immediate pre-bloom through 3 to 4 weeks after bloom is the most critical period for controlling black rot. New growth, no larger than seen in the picture below, is the time to start spraying.  Two fungicides, Mancozeb (ex. Bonide Mancozeb 37%) or Mycobutanil (ex. Immunox Fungicide) are products that control black rot. Be sure to read the label for proper application rate, preharvest interval and timing between sprays. If sprays are not made (missed), an improper rate applied or complete coverage is not obtained, you cannot expect to get satisfactory disease control of black rot.

A great resource for home growing fruit producers is OSU Bulletin 780, Controlling Diseases and Insects in the Home Fruit Plantings. Pick one up from your local OSU Extension Office.

2018 is well underway. Are you ready for a productive fruit growing season? Let’s get ready to prune!



The Colors of October

This article was first published in the Oct. 9, 2017 edition of The Journal.


The most relaxing place I know is a ridge top in October that overlooks a deciduous forest. That place is where I can find inner peace. With a good cup of coffee in one hand and an excellent book in the other, that is my place of solitude. So today, I will pay homage to the leaf pigments that create the splendid colors of October.

Deciduous trees are those which drop their leaves in autumn. Before the leaves drop, a color change occurs. The leaves of some trees turn a crusty brown. It gives the illusion that the leaf has simply died and will drop, but it is really more complex than that.

Within the leaves are a complex combination of pigments. Usually the pigment that is most apparent in the spring and summer is chlorophyll. It is responsible for green leaves. Therefore, when leaves begin to change it is the sign that chlorophyll is breaking down (due to fewer hours of sunlight during the day) and we see a color change. Where do the other pigments come from?

The other pigments were there all along, we just couldn’t see them. If chlorophyll was the dominant pigment, we only saw green. When chlorophyll declines, the other pigments are expressed. Carotene and xanthophyll pigments exhibit yellow colors. Anthocyanin pigments are responsible for reds and purples. In acidic conditions red is widely expressed and in alkaline conditions blue is expressed.

The combinations of these pigments vary from species to species, tree to tree, and even leaf to leaf. They create the lovely variety of fall colors so many of us enjoy this time of year. In wet years, you may see more reds and purples. In dry years, you may see more yellows and oranges. This is because anthocyanin pigments are water soluble.

A great local place to observe the autumn scenery is the Eastern Agricultural Research Station in Belle Valley. On a clear day from the overlook at the top of the ridge, you can see for miles. I encourage you to come and see.

A great time to do that would be at Beef and Grazing School, which continues on Tuesday, October 10 and Tuesday, October 17. Both programs run from 5:30-8 p.m. If you would like to know more details about these events, please call 740-732-5681.

What, there are three different types of photosynthesis?

As if Photosynthesis was not complicated enough, there are actually different variations of how plants convert CO2 (Carbon dioxide) to C6H12O6 (Carbohydrates).  Plants have various physiologies to adapt to various environments on earth.  Alfalfa for instance can remain persistent and prolific during certain drought episodes due to its deep taproot that can help the plant utilize deep water sources.  In term this causes the Alfalfa legume to be sensitive to poorly drained soils that are not very permeable to surface water.  So the question someone could ask is; do all desert plants have long roots?  The answer is no, but one way desert plants conserve water and grow in a hot and arid climate is by the way they photosynthesize.

The three main types of photosynthesis are C3, C4, and CAM (crassulacean acid metabolism).  In college I had to memorize some of their pathways and mechanisms, but I will highlight what gives one an advantage over another and what types of crops, forages, and weeds have specialized C3 and C4 photosynthesis.  This will tell us why they can do well in certain climates and times of the year and when we can expect certain plants to be more abundant.

Rubisco is the name of the enzyme (protein) that “grabs” the CO2 molecule and puts it into the assembly line that will create the carbohydrates.  It is known as the most abundant protein in the world.  When we examine the quality of feed in our forages, it is rubisco that makes up most of the protein value in the forage analysis.  That is one of the main reasons leaves are desired over stems in hay.

C3 photosynthesis is the predominant way plants will take in carbon dioxide and produce carbohydrates.  In C3 photosynthesis Rubisco takes the CO2 and it is reduced into carbohydrates all in the same place and time.  By that, I mean in the same cell chloroplast and during the day (sunshine) when the stomata are open and the CO2 is entering the cell and the water is leaving through the same opening.  The issue with this is that it has the greatest water loss and during very high photosynthetic times (July) it becomes stressful for the plant.  Another issue is that oxygen is generated during photosynthesis and the oxygen will inhibit rubisco and slow photosynthesis down when the system is running very fast.  It seems counterintuitive, but the slow down allows the plant to deal with too much light that could cause damage.  Ever notice that cool season grasses do not grow too fast in July and August?  Cool season grasses have a C3 photosynthesis mechanism.

Now let us transition to some of the C4 grasses, also known as “warm season grasses” such as corn, sorghum, crab grass, sugarcane, bermuda grass, and foxtail.  These plants have rubisco in one cell and they have a mechanism of pulling the CO2 in a different cell that is connected by openings between the cells called plasmodesmata connecting the two cells together.  So what happens is that the plant can concentrate its CO2 where the rubisco is located and prevent that oxygen inhibition caused in the C3 mechanism.   These plants don’t have that high sunlight, July inhibition.  In addition to that, the specialization of the cells allows for approximately 40% less water usage per weight of CO2 reduction.  This just means that it is 40% more efficient in water usage on average.  There is always variation among species.  C4 plants can also partially close their stomata to prevent water loss and because they concentrate the CO2 in a different area, the oxygen will not inhibit the rubisco enzyme.  This is one of the major reasons why warm season paddocks are desired in a rotational grazing operation.  It allows for growth during the July and August time period, when the cool season, C3 grasses are inhibited and not actively growing.

Here is the misconception; many dicots (broadleaves) are also C4 plants, it is not just the grasses!  Sedges and many of the Amaranthus species are C4 plants, they seem to be the largest plant families in this C4-broadleaf category.  So Palmer Amaranth and Spiny Amaranth, along with the sedges do great in July and August.  The fact that they are C4 plants could be contributing to this phenomenon. Knowing this allows a farmer to possibly tackle a weed before it takes over a field when a desirable cool season crop could be growing slowly or possibly dormant.  Only 1% of all known plant species have C4 metabolism and even less have CAM metabolism.

Finally there is CAM photosynthesis. CAM is found in desert plants.  What these plants do is open up their stomata at night to allow CO2 in to minimize the water loss during the hot days.  The CO2 is stored in the plant vacuole as malic acid during the night.  When the desert sun comes out, the stomatal openings are closed and the CO2 is “removed” from the malic acid to then be introduced to rubisco and make carbohydrates.  By comparison, CAM is even more water efficient than C4 is.  If C4 is 40% more water efficient, CAM is 83% more efficient as compared to most C3 photosynthetic processes.  Cacti, many succulents, and the pineapple have CAM photosynthetic metabolism.



  1. Taiz and Zeiger, Plant Physiology Ed. 3
  2. Christin and Edwards, The C4 plant lineages of planet Earth, Journal of Experimental Botany